I am not great at being a patient. I remember times when I would go to the hospital to get a diagnosis, and then skip the prescriptions because I only needed to know what was wrong. I seemed to think I would befriend my infections into benignity if I knew who they were. Unwell, or to be unwell, makes me think of a deep dry hole out of which once, something still and life-giving came forth.
I have a tendency to believe that an illness is something I wait out, and then move on as soon as the feeling catches a breath. The first time I felt dizzy at the gym, I lay down for a couple of minutes, sweating drenching the mat and my outfit even though I had only done two reps of my everyday workout. My head hurt and my body felt light like I could fly into oblivion if I stood on higher ground, but I dint go home even though the instructor said it would be okay if I couldn’t work out that day. I was fine I said, and did all my routines. I went home feeling sad about my inability to allow myself to be anything but productive, as if holding on for recovery was unproductive.
The dizziness then followed me around, showing up when I got out or from my desk. I would stand, breathe and then go on with life as if my body wasn’t asking me for attention. I am not a good patient and illnesses of any kind feel like an interruption from a major thing I should be doing.
The next time I felt dizzy at the gym, we had just broken our fast and I was eager to return the body to the shop. I had worked out a couple of times while on fast but I generally didn’t feel any guilt not working out. So I went, and when I lay down this time after the dizziness struck, I couldn’t get up. I was on my first Shawwal, and the instructor asked if he could bring me some soda but I insisted I was fine, except I wasn’t.
So, I walked out after an eternity of tug-of-war with consciousness, it pulling me in, me drawing back like an arrow ready to catapult to sanity. I walked, hoping to make it home but when I realized the impossibility, I walked into a roadside clinic, not the type of place I would usually go but the alternative would have been for absolute strangers to stare at my body by the roadside, probably taking pictures. And I want to go viral but it is not for something like that.
The doctor led me into a small-ish room and asked what seemed to be the problem, and with words sticking to the walls of my dry throat, I explained in summary, what I was feeling. He took my blood pressure, the machine hugging my arm reminiscent of the body of my lover wrapped around mine. He then struck my middle finger with a needle and no blood came forth, and so he stuck another and another until he had sufficient blood to put on the little slide. I watched my body try to give me the fuel on which it was supposed to run, and wondered when I had emptied myself of existence.
My blood pressure was low, and so was hemoglobin, and sugar level. The battle for survival was then, between my stubbornness to deny illness and my body pleading for treatment. I had an IV stuck into my vein, for the first time ever. I lay on a narrow bed, unconscious, sweaty at first, then chilly after I had come to.
“Do you have someone you can call?” the doctor asked and I said maybe I would be fine enough to go home later. I know a few twenty people in my contact list who would show up if I called but I didn’t know if that was what I wanted to do now. But I called Ell anyway, and she would have been on her way if I didn’t intercept with an I am okay. And I was okay.
The doctor said to rest, but my body wants to move. Clear plates and sinks, make the bed even though that mundane activity takes my breath away. And I cried a bucket when my love asked how I was feeling because this unfamiliar weakness was truly putting me in a place that felt so distant from life. All my friends and family turned to doctors, nutritionists, and caregivers, sending lists of what I should eat, insisting I take the recommended rest. I felt loved, except I had a harder time believing resting was what I needed. I thought if I forced motion on myself, I would not have to stop. So I read even when my hands could hardly hold the book up, tried to write, and felt guilty for being incapable.
To know better, I have said time and again, don’t mean we do better.
But I let go of the need to control and my body does feel like it is back to a part of itself that can stand without the urge to fall. I am not a good patient but I hope I get well, overall, and learn patience to see to it that what needs to heal, heals. And in the meantime, I remain grateful, eternally, for all the love that holds me patiently when I can’t.